How Is a ‘Humanitarian Pause’ Different from a Cease-Fire?

A Palestinian man looks at a destroyed house following an overnight Israeli missile strike in Gaza City Monday, July 14, 2014. Israel began airstrikes Tuesday against militants in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in what it says was a response to heavy rocket fire out of the densely populated territory. The military says it has launched more than 1,300 airstrikes since then, while Palestinian militants have launched nearly 1,000 rockets at Israel.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian man looked at a destroyed house following an overnight Israeli missile strike in Gaza City.
AP/Khalil Hamra

The Israeli army has announced a “humanitarian pause” in its attacks in the Gaza Strip. But don’t confuse that with an official cease-fire agreement with Hamas, the Palestinian faction in control of Gaza. Here’s the difference:

Cease-fire: Under a cease-fire, both sides agree to temporarily suspend attacks. A cease-fire is usually seen as the first step in a diplomatic process between two conflicting forces, but Hamas and Israel are not at this point.

On Tuesday, Israel agreed to an Egypt-backed cease-fire, but Hamas rejected the proposal, equating it with a surrender, according to The New York Times. A few hours later, Hamas launched rockets at Israel, and Israel resumed airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

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Humanitarian pause: In this case, Israel is the only one ‘ceasing fire.’ Israel will hold fire on Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., according to a statement by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The purpose is to allow civilians in the Gaza Strip to find supplies and shelter. In the past nine days, more than 200 Palestinians have died in Gaza from Israeli attacks, according to the AP.

However, “should the humanitarian window be exploited by Hamas or other terrorist organizations for the purpose of launching attacks,” the IDF statement reads, “the IDF will respond firmly and decisively.”

It’s a brief and tenuous pause, at that.